Greens MP and environment spokesperson Cate Faehrmann is warning the state’s treasured National Parks are under siege from minority interests wanting to take advantage of O’Farrell Government’s lax attitudes towards the environment.
Ms Faehrmann has expressed alarm over the O’Farrell government’s plans to open up National Parks and Wilderness Areas to horse riders. Environment Minister Robyn Parker has announced plans to increase access for horse riders to National Parks and to allow them into Wilderness Areas for the first time.
“Horses introduce weeds to National Parks through seeds excreted in their faeces. Their hooves cause soil erosion and the weeds erode the biodiversity of native plants and animals. The National Parks and Wildlife Service refers to horses as ‘pest animals’ on its website,” said Ms Faehrmann.
“Labor had already started letting horses back into National Parks to the point where they now have access to thousands of kilometers of tracks in more than a 110 reserves.
“Not satisfied with this the horse lobby has successfully lobbied the O’Farrell government to open up national parks further and even let them into an as yet unidentified wilderness area, where horse riding has always been banned, for a pilot study. Candidates are Kosciuszko, Barrington Tops, Oxley Wild Rivers and Wadbilliga.
“The trouble with an experiment like that is that once you realise it was a terrible mistake it’s impacts are impossible to reverse. Just ask the NPWS rangers and bush regenerators who spend their lives trying to eradicate weeds introduced to national parks and reserves. Wilderness Areas are precious refuges for native wildlife and their protection should not be put at risk in this way,” said Ms Faehrmann.
The policy Parker has announced would see existing tracks in National Parks opened up to horse riding in the first instance, with medium terms plans to create new tracks and horse riding camps within National Parks.
Ms Faehrmann said: “The Wilderness Act says access to wilderness areas should be ‘self reliant’. The government is stretching that definition beyond credibility to include horse back. It is a dangerous move. If horse back counts as self reliant – what next – motorbikes, 4WDs?
“The plans Parker has announced reveal a deep ignorance about the precarious ecology of National Parks and a total disregard for decades of conservation effort to protect them from invasive species and other threats,” said Ms Faehrmann.
Media contact: Peter Stahel 0433 005 727